I recently put together my list of favourite (non-HI54LOFI RECORDS) albums of the year. Part of putting together the list involved finding links to where the albums were available, and that led to the following observation.
How come so many bands —of the mid to high level of ‘made it or making it’ range — are not using Bandcamp?
On my list of 30 albums, only 9 of the bands are on Bandcamp, and a good handful of those bands were not ‘properly’ on Bandcamp (i.e. they only had a few tracks available to stream, or none, or there Bandcamp page was just used as a link to where you could buy elsewhere — for example, Cults link you to iTunes in order to buy). All of those albums that were not on Bandcamp were on iTunes and Spotify. This trend is not just unique to the albums on my list, but something I've noticed all year.
Established bands are not using Bandcamp. Why is that?
It surely can't be because they are unaware of it. Anybody releasing music knows about Bandcamp (unless they exist solely on Reverbnation, bless). If you know about Bandcamp, then you know that they give a much better cut to the artist, unless bands / labels of a certain stature receive a better rate from iTunes than those going the route of a Tunecore or CD Baby. So, I guess it must have something to do with:
a) A lot bands / labels of a certain stature have their digital distribution handled by companies that take a percentage of all their sales in return for making their music available on the gauntlet of online services. Since Bandcamp does not have a cost of entry to have your music available or require you go through a middle man (like iTunes or Spotify do), Bandcamp is sort of a slap in the face of companies whose sole existence is based on the fact that bands need to go through them to sell their music. Perhaps not putting their music on Bandcamp is an attempt to slap back?
b) Bands do not make any money off of people streaming their songs on a Bandcamp player (not that they make too much from Spotify or the like), so maybe some guy in a suit has come up with a metric that shows a pie chart about how this is a bad thing.
c) Probably a bit of both a and b.
Whatever the case, this is a bad thing for not just fans and listeners, but mostly for artists. Bandcamp empowers the little guy and makes it possible for them to get their music out on their own. But as long as the middle-to-big sized artists and labels keep their music off of Bandcamp, Bandcamp will never become as trusted of a buying option as an iTunes or an Amazon. Anyone who has released music knows just how many of their friends and family are not comfortable with or aware of Bandcamp enough to purchase their album (or even download something for free). Yet almost everybody has given their credit card number to iTunes or gotten a gift card for a bday or xmas gift. Meaning: everybody is aware of iTunes.
And yes, one option is to have your music also available on iTunes. But then you not only get less of a cut from each sale (not to mention no control over price or options in how you release and what is included), you also have to pay someone else (or give someone else an extra cut) just to get it on iTunes (or Spotify, or Amazon, or etc.). Also, iTunes and Spotify and the like do not make for good internetting. Sharing a Spotify link is kind of like telling someone about a party they are not invited too (or at least, that is how it felt to me back when I lived in non-Spotify Canada). And linking to iTunes, although an internet connection is needed, feels like you leave the internet entirely to go visit.
If the big boys don't want to play with Bandcamp, it really needs to fall on the artists and labels who do to help spread the word and educate the masses about the glory that be Bandcamp. A win for Bandcamp is a win for musicians.
On a side note, I really hope Bandcamp is working on creating some sort of 'store front' setup to make it easier for music lovers to find new stuff and explore the wealth of great music on the site (their current home page is a great start, but hopefully it keeps developing). Bandcamp is constantly pushing out great new features, but a lot of those are geared toward the artists (which, of course, trickles down to the buyers), but it seems like only the internet savvy of music fans shop at Bandcamp. The brilliance of Apple / iTunes is how well they get the non-savvy through their doors.
Ok, back to my xmas dinner left overs (why did we roast so many vegetables for just the two of us?).